“As she turned her head, there was a popping/pulling sound in her neck that triggered a stroke and would end the hopes and dreams for a promising life————-or would it?”
I cannot remember the first time I laid eyes on Peggy Taylor, but I do recall that she was the prettiest girl I had ever seen. During our growing up years as first cousins, there were many occasions that I would be in her presence either at school or the many times the families of Will and Euemma Garman gathered. The adults would gather in the parlor to play Rook, work on putting the pieces to a large puzzle together, or just talk. The young folks would gather in the kitchen and play games, laugh and act silly. Then there were times like square dances at the old Mill, get-togethers at each other’s homes, ice cream suppers and Sunday afternoons at the Garman homeplace. I never told anybody about my infatuation with Peggy, mainly because I was the shyest boy in Catawba until my ninth grade year in high school. I could imagine there would have been a lot of teasing and laughing at my expense had I made my feelings about her known.
After high school and four years at Virginia Tech, I would be married with two children and headed out of the Valley. I would begin a career as an Extension Agent for the next 25 or so years. During that time on I looked at Peggy as an admired cousin and close friend. I would see Peggy and her husband once in a while over the years and hear my mother talk about her from time to time. My birthday is April 1 and Peggy’s is April 4 and I would over the years, at times, call her to wish her a happy birthday. Life would go on for me.
Peggy, on the other hand, would attend Andrew Lewis High School, graduating in 1957. She would go to work at Rowe Furniture soon after graduation where she would meet her future husband Henry Halsey. Henry worked as a Production Manager and would have a desk that was located just outside of the office door where Peggy worked. She likes to tell that story with a smile, that reflects the feeling of her good fortune to be in the right place at the right time. Kind of a smug smile that a cat would have knowing where the mouse was. Henry, obviously, liked this arrangement as he fell in love with 19-year-old Peggy. A year or so later on June 22, 1959, they were married.
They would live in Catawba right beside the Taylor homeplace (where sister Lola currently lives) and start their family. A daughter Judy was born in 1960 and their second daughter Pam came along in 1966.
Henry retired after 43 years with Rowe. Over time he made the furniture that is still in their house today, Peggy proudly proclaims. Life was good for this fine young couple and they were held in high esteem by everyone. A storybook marriage, two beautiful daughters and living in Catawba near family and many friends, God had been good to the Halsey family.
This would be a Christian family as the years went forward with Henry, Peggy, Judy and Pam rarely missing a service at Shiloh Church. They sang in the choir, cut the grass and saw to the maintenance of the church building and grounds. Henry served as superintendent of Sunday School for a long time as well as serving as a teacher. Peggy worked at Classic Furniture of Rowe until they closed down in the late seventies. She found herself unemployed. Peggy’s father Paris had worked at the Catawba Sanatorium and retired in 1970. He found out about a job opening in the business office and encouraged her to apply, which she did. She was hired in December 1978. Unlike when Sandra was hired there, Daddy Paris did not go with Peggy to the interview to help answer questions. She knew God had blessed her with this job which was just a short drive from her home. Just three weeks into her job, as the year 1979 unfolded Peggy’s life would change forever.
It was a cold day on Wednesday, January 3, 1979, as Peggy left work to drive home. In three months she would turn 40 and had to be feeling very blessed with her new job and the approaching golden years with Henry, Judy, Pam, and grandchildren. As she pulled out of the parking lot of the Sanatorium she turned her head to check traffic and felt something pop and pull in her neck. She felt dizzy but was able to drive home which was just a few minutes away. Going inside she waited for Henry to arrive home while a feeling of nausea and chills came over her. When Henry arrived he immediately drove her to a doctor. The doctor diagnosed her as coming down with the flu and sent her home. A few days later she was not feeling any better and Henry took her to the hospital. Tests revealed she had an aneurysm that had caused a stroke on her right side.
She was put into intensive care and stayed there for three weeks. She was then moved out of intensive care but remained in the hospital for three months. She was unable to speak as she started receiving physical therapy while in the hospital. She spent her 40th birthday on April 4, 1979, while still in the hospital. Peggy would return to her Catawba home on April 7 still unable to talk. Speech therapy was set up for her three days a week in Roanoke. Henry would take off from his work at Rowe Furniture and take her to these sessions. She was asked to bring a book to speech therapy to practice reading aloud. The book Peggy chose was her Bible. It would take several months before she could talk and she communicated by writing things on paper.
Her stroke was on her right side but by the grace of God, she was born with her left hand being the one she wrote with. At home, she would continue with physical therapy by doing exercises on her own. I have seen people find themselves in an identical state like Peggy but accept their condition, give up and lose years of living a fulfilling life. Peggy would not accept the suggestion that she would have her life altered by any physical restraints. She was determined to achieve every aspect of a normal life that she could and settle for nothing less. That would take courage and faith.
Courage Was Her Name
Peggy had tremendous faith but she also had courage and a determined mindset to be the best she could be. She was fitted for a brace on her right foot to keep that foot straight and rigid. When she gets shoes she has to get two different sizes. She was given a 4-legged cane to walk with when she left the hospital and she still has that cane thirty nine years later. With encouragement from her daughters, Peggy started to do household tasks like washing dishes, making her bed, running the swifter on the floor and hanging clothes outside on the clothesline. She had a cart with a basket to haul clothes and firewood. She started to cook again, go shopping with Lola, visiting and leading a very active life. In the last few years, the use of a wheelchair on some occasions is required, especially when in crowds. Family members would take turns helping her out and taking her places. Sister Sandra, who held a full-time job helped Henry out with Peggy when she could. All her extended family helped her at times. But one would soon leave her.
A Loss and a Gain
Her beloved husband Henry would go to be with the Lord on March 22, 2009, just three months shy of their 50th wedding anniversary. This woman of courage lost her mate who had been there for her through sickness and health. She knew he was in a better place but she also knew that his verbal and physical help would no longer be there. Enter sister Sandra. Sandra would retire after 37 years at Catawba Sanatorium in the year 2009 and she would begin assisting Peggy on a regular basis and continues in that role today. Peggy depends a great deal on Sandra who drives her to about any place she wants or needs to go. It is normal to see the two of them together. Whenever Sandra is unable to fill a need for Peggy, Peggy’s daughters and other family members step in. What Sandra is doing for the sister she admires so much is a ministry in every sense of the word. I told Sandra recently that I saw a lot of Peggy in her. She told me that was the best compliment anyone could give her because she thought Peggy was the best.
Peggy is not just a receiver she is a giver to others.
If caring for her sister is Sandra’s ministry than what would be Peggy’s ministry? While visiting with Peggy recently I told her that her life was a ministry. People look at how her faith and courage has brought her to a fulfilling life that she shares by just being Peggy. Never complaining, never saying “why me”, never blaming God but always portraying courage and faith.
She visits friends and kin in nursing homes or wherever they may be. She is there to comfort when a death occurs. My sister Barbara shared with me about Peggy and Sandra faithfully visiting our mother at Snyder Nursing Home many times over the past few years. She is faithful to being a part of her church family and enjoys the fellowship. Her life is a sermon! Everybody in Catawba knows her and speaks highly of her at all times. She is a joy to visit and you leave inspired by being in her presence.
Lola and Sandra both shared that when they have a physical problem or situation they hesitate to complain because Peggy never complains. And remember, come January of 2019 she will have had this stroke injury for 40 years! Just think about that. One half of her life.
I am thankful that I have had a special relationship that started during our childhood and blossomed again recently as the years became decades. The Lord willing, I intend to visit with her as often as I can. Being in her presence is an inspiration in itself. It has been an honor for me to bring to all of you—-Peggy’s Story. Thanks Peggy, from me and all those folks that your life has touched.
To read more about Peggy and the Taylor Family, click here for the E-book.
Like articles like this? Then you would love Echoes From Catawba Volume 1, Growing Up In Catawba Valley, Appalachia.
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